Nebula Winners Sixteen

By Jerry Pournelle

Rating: 3 stars

This anthology brings together the Nebula short fiction winners from 1980 along with some other fiction and essays about the state of the genre and fandom in that year. Of the fiction, I’d read a number of the stories elsewhere but I still very much enjoyed Grotto of the Dancing Deer in which an archaeologist learns about the past through an unexpected source; and The Ugly Chickens, a humorous story in which a young academic starts on the trail of the possible discovery of a lifetime. I was less taken with the novella, The Unicorn Tapestry, about a therapist who takes on a new client – a vampire. I found the protagonist irritating and I’ve never really been a fan of this sort of slower, psychological SF. Of the non-fiction, I must confess to skipping most of Algis Budrys’s essay What did 1980 Mean which tried to being a critical analysis to the start of the art in that year, but did nothing for me. The most interesting non-fiction piece for me was 1980: The Year in Fantastic Films, by Bill Warren which looked at 1980 in film and TV. Although most of what he talks about have sunk without trace over the years, there were two that stood out, and it’s interesting to see how time has changed the way we look at both: The Empire Strikes Back and Flash Gordon. Warren regarded Empire as inferior to A New Hope and gave interesting reasons for this. This was written at the time, before the trilogy was complete and the darkness that is now most commonly praised was held up as its major flaw. Flash Gordon on the other hand was considered to have been made by people contemptuous of the genre and without love, whereas time as turned it into a bona fide classic, albeit a very camp one!

So an interesting snapshot of the state of SF in 1980, both in the fiction and the essays that accompany them. As you’d expect, the stories range in scope and taste but definitely worth dipping into.

Book details

ISBN: 9780352314239
Publisher: Star
Year of publication: 1982

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